Congressional politics recently heated up gatherings of two usually nonpartisan Fairfax County groups - the Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Supervisors.
The guests had just about completed dinner Saturday night when the outgoing president of the county Chamber of Commerce stood to present the Citizen of the Year Award to county Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity.
Republican Herrity, who is running for the Congressional seat held by Democratic Rep. Herbert E. Harris, recalled the other day, "I was shocked. It was really a nice surprise. It's the first time I've ever received such an honor."
It also came as a shock to some Chamber members and guests, including Harris who was seated at the podium at the time.
"I thought it was rude (to present the award to Herrity) when we had the incumbent congressman sitting on the podium," said Tom Hirst, a member of the chamber.
"I sort of feel like it (the presentation to Herrity) maybe should get the Dick Tuck of the Year Award," said chamber Vice President Eason Cross, referring to the political prankster.
Harris said he "thought it was very unfortunate that the chamber leadership got the chamber involved in a partisan issue."
William L. Blocher, outgoing president of the chamber and a Republican, said, "There's absolutely no partisanship involved in this thing."
He said a five-member selection committee, made up of Democrats and Republicans, sent out a newsletter to the more than 900 chamber members asking for nominations for the award. The committee received four nominations and Herrity got three times as many votes as the others, Blocher said.
Herrity is a chamber member, one of the criteria for the award, and has been active in the business community as well as the leader on such matters as water conservation and resources and Interstate 66, said Blocher.
"It would be extremely unfair to deny him the award just because he is running for Congress," he said, adding that most of the complaints about it have come from Democrats.
"I can't get upset with Herrity getting the award," said Cross, who said he believes Herb Harris "is a good congressman." But, he added, "it's bad taste to give it to (Herrity) when Harris was sitting on the podium."
Two days later Herrity took an opportunity at the supervisors' regular meeting to aim a political arrow at Harris. The board, however, took some steam out of Herrity's effort.
The chairman proposed that letters go to Harris and two local newspaper reporters to correct what he called Harris' inaccurate statement in news articles in late May about water sharing agreements between Fairfax and the city of Falls Church.
A Washington Post article on May 25 reported that Harris said an agreement signed this year between the county and Falls Church should assure adequate water until the county completes construction of a water intake station on the Potomac River. Herrity said a similar article appeared in the Washington Star.
Herrity said the jurisdictions have had a water sharing agreement since 1959, and no new agreement has been made.
Harris was referring to a new water management program under the county water authority that calls for Fairfax to automatically seek other water supplies when the Occoquan Reservoir, the county's major water supply, falls below specified levels.
The board agreed to send letters to Post and Star reporters, explaining the alleged inaccuracy, but decided not to send the letter to Harris.
"It was an obvious political maneuver," said Supervisor Alan H. Magazine (D-Mason). "He (Herrity) got burned and looked bad in the press once before and was taking an opportunity to get the supervisors on record to embarrass the incumbent congressman."
Magazine was referring to hearings on Capitol Hill last summer about the county's water shortage at the time. During the hearings, Harris criticized Herrity for not taking advantage of Falls Church water supplies early enough to ease the severity of the water emergency.